HUMBOLDT, Saskatchewan (AP) – A hockey arena became the epicenter of Sunday's mourning for a small Canadian town when friends and relatives gathered to lament 15 dead after a semi-trailer in a youth hockey bus Team had slammed into western Canada.
Fourteen were also injured, some critically, in a collision that tumbled a country, its national sport, and the hockey-obsessed city of Humboldt, Saskatchewan.
The bus had 29 passengers, including the driver, when it crashed around 5pm Friday on Highway 35, police said. Among the dead are Bronco head coach Darcy Haugan, team Captain Logan Schatz and radio announcer Tyler Bieber.
Residents of this city of less than 6,000 left flowers, jerseys and personal tributes on the steps of the entrance of the arena, forming a makeshift monument. A tribute included a Kraft macaroni and cheese dinner box, which was a favorite meal of the late forward Evan Thomas. A bouquet of pink roses adorned the box, which read: "To Evan, matchday special, love your Billet brother and sister Colten and Shelby."
Canadians have become mourners as they learn more about the deceased's identity on the bus, which led the Humboldt Broncos hockey team to a crucial playoff game on Friday against the Nipawin Hawks.
Forward Jaxon Joseph, son of former NHL player Chris Joseph, along with striker Logan Hunter and defenseman Stephen Wack, Adam Herold and Xavier Labelle, were among the dead according to family members and others. Bus driver Glen Doerksen and Stats keeper Brody Hinz, who was 1
Herold, who would have turned 17 on Thursday, played until a few weeks ago for the Regina Pat Canadian Hockey team, but was wrapped up in the Broncos for their playoff round, as the Pat Canadian season, said John Smith, who Manager of the Pat Canadians.
The names of all the dead and injured were not released by the police.
"It's a small town everywhere. We're devastated," said hockey club vice president Randolph MacLEAN. "In the center we have 15 souls who will never go home again, we have 29 lives that will never be the same again."
The Canadian police said the truck driver, who was not injured, was initially arrested and since then released and provided with psychiatric help. Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Curtis Zablocki, said it was too early to name a cause for the crash.
Photos of the wreck showed the twisted trailer with the most wheels in the air and the bus on the side with the destroyed back part. The force of the crash sent both vehicles into the ditch at the northwest corner of the intersection.
The semi-trailer would have had to submit to a stop sign before it could cross the freeway on which the hockey bus drove. There are a number of trees at the southeast corner of the intersection, which limits the view of both roads.
The police said that many problems need to be investigated, including the weather conditions at that time and mechanical problems with the vehicles
The tragedy recalled an accident in 1986, when the Swift Current Broncos' team bus drove off from an icy highway slipped and crashed in late December, killing four players.
He also brought Canadians to a country where hockey plays, tears is a way of life.
The Broncos are a tight-knit team that dyed their hair blond for the playoffs. While most of the players came from another country in western Canada, they were set up by families in the small town of Humboldt.
On Sunday evening, a vigil will take place on the ice of the ice hockey team, and a makeshift leg and hundreds of chairs will be ready for the monument.
"We are all injured," said hockey arena chef Diane Sawatzky. "We have become like a family and try to help each other."
MacLEAN said the community gathered on game nights in the arena, which attracted 800 to 1,000 people to the stands.
"It's an energy that spreads through the city with street signs saying" game tonight, "tickets for sale everywhere," he said.
As in the case of small-town hockey in Canada, he said the arena is not just a recreational facility, but a focus of community life with the hockey team in its midst.
With players working from local families, working in urban businesses and visiting local schools, MacLEAN said the tragedy touched every corner of Humboldt.
Norman Mattock, a longtime season ticket holder, said his neighbor accommodated player Morgan Gobeil.
The defender was badly injured and remains in serious but stable condition, Mattock said.
Bileting families are a big part of junior hockey, with players spending years with homestays.
He said that players are part of the community, do volunteer work or serve in restaurants. Three players, who were quartered by the same family, died in the crash.
"They've lost them all," Mattock said.
Gillies reported from Toronto.
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Send a letter to the editor